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The Mississippi Delta
A Collection of Essays, Photography, and Documentaries 

Please explore our site to learn more about a geography rich in culture, history, and lessons for our future

In 2000, with support from a Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Jane Adams and D. Gorton spent the summer in the Mississippi Delta. Both of us are veterans of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and we wanted to learn how people who uneasily straddled the color line - Chinese, Italian, Lebanese, Jews, and other people who were not part of the dominant "black" and "white" society -- thought about that era. We also wanted to learn how some of the leaders of the white opposition to the Freedom Movement reflected on their actions during that period.

We called our project "Memory and Judgment: Whites in the Mississippi Delta."  We interviewed people from many different communities. The results of this project resulted in course materials, including three videos, for Jane's undergraduate course, "America's Diverse Cultures".

 

Our first summer's work was distilled into a short video, Race in Mississippi, that explored the very different ways people we interviewed understood "race". I accompanied this video with teaching materials, including a transcript of the video, a series of questions and analysis that I expected students to address, and a bibliography. It also featured thumbnail biographies of a number of the people we interviewed or who were ancestors of people we interviewed.

We continued research in the Delta, focused on class, with the video Allen's Choice, and religion, with the video Out of Africa, as well as scholarly articles posted on the Race in Mississippi tab. 

 

During our research we came across the remnants of  several New Deal Farm Security Administration projects. The discovery of these projects triggered extended research in Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, as well as the National Archives in Washington, DC and Chicago, Illinois, and the Franklyn D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York. This research resulted in a published paper on the eviction of sharecroppers from plantations acquired for FSA projects, and unpublished conference papers, restructured here in the FSA tab: The Farm Security Administration in the Lower Mississippi Delta: Reading the Photographic Record (2006) and Legacy on the Land: New Deal Resettlement in the Mississippi Delta (2006). We also constructed a series of mini-essays (Photo Galleries) on particular series of FSA photographs, as well as GoogleEarth shots of a number of FSA projects still visible on the landscape. A bibliography is included.

We were also introduced to the work of photographer J.C. Coovert (1862-1937). We tracked down as much of his collection as we could find, trying to understand the world in which Coovert lived and worked, as well as his personal biography. We scanned as many images of his work as possible. That archive is presented here, along with a lecture we presented in Memphis about Coovert and his work.

This site also contains a collection of photographs that D. during our fieldwork took of churches in the Delta.

And, leaving the Delta and heading to western Kansas, returning from a workshop in Santa Fe to learn PhotoShop, D. came across an "outsider artist" in Mullinville, Kansas. We returned and filmed M.T. Liggett (1930-2017). That film is posted here.

For more of D. Gorton's photographic work, see his website, www.dgorton.com

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